The publicity on this bass drum leads me to speak of advertising as it is understood and practiced in the United States. Everyone knows that the Americans are very fond of advertising, but one must have visited their country, the great cities, the smallest villages, and even the most isolated spots to learn how far they have gone in their passion.
One day in New York I met two young men walking along arm in arm. Each had a card pinned on his back.
GREAT SALE OF SEWING MACHINES BROADWAY N°
Was it a joke? Were these gentlemen really traveling salesmen for their house? I should be inclined toward the latter hypothesis. However that may be, all the passers-by turned around, laughed, and looked at the sign. The merchant had accomplished his purpose.
Advertisements are found everywhere and of every kind. There is no flag hanging from a window which is not disfigured by an advertisement; the streets at intervals are spanned by triumphal arches whose only purpose is to give publicity for coming sales; the walls are covered with posters of extraordinary size. A company making mustard has its name and address carved in the pavement of the streets; prospectuses shower down on the omnibuses and carriages, and advertising cards fill them inside. “Sozodont! . . .”14 There is a word I have seen everywhere, and whose meaning I don’t yet know —it is certainly an advertisement. An American would have asked what it meant, but as a true Frenchman, I am not sufficiently interested.
However, from the train, I read mechanically on a telegraph pole the following words: “Only cure for rheumatism.” No more no less. Was it because I am acquainted with people who are afflicted with this disease or because of the strangeness of the announcement, I do not know, but in spite of myself I began to watch for the telegraph poles. A kilometer further on I saw it again, but still without the name of the maker. Further on, the same phenomenon occurred once more and continued for about ten kilometers. At the eleventh, to my great joy, I saw the name and address of the individual. I almost bought his medicine when I got out of the train! Decidedly, the American advertising men play upon the human mind as a musician plays on his piano.
At night for advertising they use gas, electric light, or kerosene. Even the magic lantern has become a means of publicity. Men walk around the streets enclosed in sheds made of paper, illuminated on the inside and bearing inscriptions on their four sides.
A horse pulling a streetcar falls down from fatigue after having pulled fifty people the whole day long—immediately, an urchin runs up and sticks a poster on his nose:
GARGLING OIL GOOD FOR MAN AND BEAST
I saw this same announcement in an almost inaccessible place at Niagara Falls.
The mania for advertising has gone to almost unbelievable lengths. Here is what appeared in the American newspapers about a concert on July 9 at Gilmore Garden:
GREAT SACRED CONCERT IN HONOR OF
THE EMPEROR OF BRAZIL
And last appearance in public of his Majesty Don Pedro previous to his departure for Europe.
The words, EMPEROR OF BRAZIL, stand out as if he were a well-known singer or outstanding actor. You can imagine the impresario appearing on the stage to tell the public: “The Emperor of Brazil, suddenly taken sick, requests your indulgence and asks you to be patient.” Or else: “The Emperor of Brazil, having unexpected throat trouble, begs you to excuse him if he does not appear tonight for the last time.” The public absolutely has the right to ask for its money back.